Whirlwind

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Suddenly I look up, and it’s June and I haven’t written for almost a month!. Where did the time go?. What have I been doing?.

Well, May was basically spent frantically trying to finish all my work before the half-term break, and then the break itself was spent both on holiday; and then recovering from food poisoning.

So some fun and some terrible.

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I just wanted to update briefly and let you know I’m still here, and that I have some posts coming up about where I have been including, a day out walking in London and visiting St Dunstan in the East, a long walk around Limehouse Basin, my attempt at the Hampstead Heath Circular Walk, a day out in Chinatown and a holiday in Madrid!.

Day Off, well earned

 

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Makes me smile everytime

I had a day off on Friday. Very well earned day off if I say so myself. I have a dual role at the high school I work at, and I collect data every day in order to eventually (hopefully) get enough funding to make my role be performed by two people as it should be.

For now though, it’s just me and I feel pulled in many directions so much of the time. I also worry that the quality of my work isn’t up to my usual standard because I’m forced to spend the least amount of time I possibly can on each task.

I won’t tell you what those two roles are as they are so disparate that you will be left scratching your head as to why they are performed by the same person in the first place!.

I digress. As it was also the weekend of the first bank holiday in May, I had four glorious days to look forward to.

On the Friday though; my official day off, I wanted to do something just for me, that I really love doing. So I took myself out on a museum date.

In the morning I left the house without having a coffee or breakfast, which is a rarity for me; but I wanted to have breakfast out somewhere. I headed towards Gloucester Road and as I got off the tube and smiled at the huge murals of Gloucester that I love seeing, I walked up the steps and got out onto street level.

My first two weeks in London were spent in and around Gloucester Road as we stayed in a hostel and pounded the pavement looking for work and a place to live, so it holds nice memories for me.

I went to a greasy spoon Mr Liberty and I use to go to sometimes and had a lovely breakfast while reading the book for this month’s session of my book club. I’ve really been enjoying it too so it was pretty much a perfect breakfast.

I then walked the short distance towards the natural history museum (marveled at the beautiful building as I passed) and queued up at the door of the V & A bang on ten am for its opening.

I had made plans to meet a friend in the tea room at around 12 (one of the most lovely spaces to have tea anywhere on London) and so had some time to visit some of my favourite artworks while I  waited.

I first headed to the gift shop, as I love browsing in there and picked out a pair of earrings to buy as a treat.

The time passed very quickly (as it often does when engrossed in something you love) and then it was time for tea!. We had tea (a cream tea as well for me) and walked around some more before walking around the shops near South Kensington station.

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Cute caption on the lid

My next stop was the kicker; I wanted to go to the Courtauld Gallery. I first visited London 7 years ago as an art history student and each subsequent visit to the city and even moving here, I have been meaning to go to the Courtauld but had never quite made it for some reason or another.

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Somerset House looking stormy

This time I was quite determined that I would go. I am so glad that I did. The joy and wonder of seeing some fine pieces in the collection was really worth the wait, and it was fantastic to see soem of the more well known works like Manet’s ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergere’ and Van Gogh’s ‘Self-Portrait with a bandaged ear’.

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Almost a bowl of gin

The gallery is in Somerset House, so a lovely location in the middle of the city, and afterwards I took myself further up the strand to a small bar I like and ordered a very large glass of gin. A great day off was had by me.

Turn’em Green

As I mentioned in my last post, on the basis of the book I have ‘London Villages’ this Saturday I was going to head off to explore Turnham Green.

So Saturday opened with clear blue skies thankfully and we set off for the direction of Chiswick, in particular Turnham Green.

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The book itself recommends looking around Turnham Green Terrace and Devonshire Road to wander around.  

Just 40 minutes on the district line later, into an area of West London that in times gone by was the domain of wealthy Londoner’s country homes.

E.M Forster of ‘A Passage to India’ and ‘A Room with a View’ fame lived in the area, as did the painter William Hogarth.

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We arrived in Turnham Green early Saturday morning, there was a bustling yet relaxed weekend vibe in the street outside the tube station; (Turnham Green Terrace) we wandered up the road towards Chiswick High Road.

On the way there we popped into the excellent Oxfam bookstore and bagged some bookish bargains (Miss Read ‘Village School’ for me, a steal at 99p).

A couple of shops down there is an equally excellent Fara charity shop (A Chloe See oatmeal cardigan for £13.50? yes please) which is set out in colour batches, ie clothing in blue, white, orange, etcetera. Very clever idea and a great range of garments.

We headed further along, delighting in the Saturday morning scene of families getting their shopping done, or having a coffee together, there was even a queue of people out the door at the butchers!.

Towards the end of the road sits Fouberts, a local institution where even though it was quite early morning there were people having ice cream.

Getting to the High Road, we turned right and then crossed the road where we found the William Hogarth statue. 

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Even though the ‘London Villages’ is a bit disparaging of Chiswick High Road, we found it interesting nevertheless and there was enough to see despite array of chain shops (two cafe nero’s leading to Mr Liberty’s joke, ‘Meet you at cafe nero on the high road’ wait a beat, ‘which one’?).

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This swing was on the high road, giving it a village feel

We walked outside the town hall (where I saw my first ever gold post box) spotted a coffee shop on the corner with the fabulous name of ‘Rhythm and Brews’ and found the E.M Forster blue plaque on a house along the way.

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Gold, fancy!

We walked until the end of the road and back to see where we could get a drink and then a spot of lunch. We stopped at the lamb brewery for a drink, which is a nice place to have a beer or something else. 

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We decided on a pizza place for lunch and sat outside and people watched while munching on a large and delicious pizza, washed down with some red wine.

Afterwards, needing a constitutional walk, we headed up Chiswick High Road the other way towards Stamford Brook.

We stopped at a lovely coffee shop and had some coffee and read the papers in Saturday afternoon companionship.

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The extremely quaint and pretty coffee shop, don’t those cupcakes look amazing?

Heading back eventually, we finally headed up Devonshire Road, which features a great antiques shop in which the older women behind the counter took no notice of me at all and continued being engrossed in their conversation (normally this might bother me, but I was simply delighted).

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Devonshire Road is also home to London’s first self-proclaimed Italian Craft Beer Pub, which we will have to test out on our next visit.

Because we had lazed around so much with our eating and coffee drinking, it was by now quite late in the afternoon and we decided not to head on to Chiswick House and Hogarth’s House as we probably didn’t have enough time to properly devote to them; and decided to save them for another visit.

 

London Villages

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wander unknown streets

I have this great book that I found before moving to London, it is called London Villages by Zena Alkayat, and divides the city into little village enclaves.

Moving here I found that London really is like that, people love to just stay in their neighborhoods so they tend to move to a part of the city that includes things/venues that they would like to frequent.

So I had the vague idea that I would take it upon myself to visit and explore these so called village enclaves as they are all new to me. 

The book itself is divided into north, south, central, east and west much like the city itself and showcases lovely communities within London.

It showcases certain shops, cafes, eateries within the little village and has really charmingly drawn maps to highlight places of interest.

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relax and unwind

It gives you a great base from which to explore and discover places off the beaten track and unknown to most visitors to London. If you are the kind of traveler that wants to see how locals live, this is the right kind of urban exploration for you!.

I used to live in North West London and so have explored two of the villages listed in the West section of the book already, Queen’s Park and Golborne Road.

I now live in the East near the Columbia Road and Shoreditch Villages section of the book.

This weekend I plan on exploring Turnham Green one of the villages mentioned in the West section of the book.

Among the highlights of the area are Chiswick House, The Lamb Brewery and Hogarth’s House.

I plan to report back on my findings and share them with you, see you then!.

Planning A Trip

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Research, Research, Research (Image by Dariusz Samkowski)

As mentioned previously, I spontaneously booked a trip to Madrid for the end of May/Early June.

The airfares and destination are sorted now the real work begins: planning the trip.

When planning a trip I like to to leave room for balance, by which I mean a nice mix of set activities/things to see and spontaneous exploration and wandering.

There’s nothing better in my view, than being in a city that’s new to you and stumbling onto something you never would have known about or seen if not for spontaneous meandering.

So the first few things I like to do are as follows:

  1. Research the destination: probably a result of my love of history and context, I like to know a little bit of the modern historical situations that contextualise a destination for me. It helps in understanding the people and reasons why things are as they are. It also helps avoid possibly offending people inadvertently which I would never want to do
  2. Google! Aside from written travel guides which can help in bringing a destination to life with pictures and background, just sitting down and heading to google can help with getting an idea of the kind of accommodation which the city has to offer as guidebooks only give you about ten or so choices.
  3. Budgetary Constraints, sadly this step is a reality for most of us, and you must consider your budget and what are the most important aspects of a trip for you which you can’t skimp on. In an ideal world, it would be great to stay in luxury accommodations for example, but in reality I often have to stay in a hostel and forgo the luxury, in order to also see and do other things when travelling. 
  4. Which brings me to my next point: I like to check if the destination has a ‘poshtel’ or sort of luxury hostel the likes of which have sprung up quite a bit in the last few years. It does bring a nice dose of semi luxury to proceedings, and help make your trip a nicer experience.
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Don’t get stuck in hotel hell (Image by Loic Djim)

  1. Pinterest! Yes Pinterest, I have a few Pinterest boards going, and a couple are boards filled with dream destinations I would like to get to at some stage (check out my Pinterest boards if you are so inclined) and checking out your travel destination on Pinterest is a great way to find images of things to see and do which you may not know about!.
  2. Good old fashioned word of mouth, ask around, people you work with, friends, who may have been to where you are going. Did they like it? What did they like about it? was something a tourist trap which they would rather have avoided? where did they stay?. People you know may have some great tips for you on places you are travelling to, and everyone loves talking about their travel; so go ahead and ask around!.

So there you have it, just a few ideas to kick around while planning your trip, but just remember to leave yourself a bit of leeway and allow yourself the time and space to just wander and enjoy your travels!.

London’s free zine scene: A round-up

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While I have been living in London, I have really enjoyed grabbing the free magazines on offer as I’m nipping into the tube of a weekday to head to work.

Some (depending on where you live) are available in the mornings, some in the evenings.

I’ve fallen into a bit of a routine at my stop, Time Out Tuesday morning, Stylist Wednesday morning, Shortlist Thursday morning and Evening Standard magazine Thursday afternoon, and for the purposes of this review; Sport and NME on Friday.

I decided that a little bit of a round-up was necessary to inform people who don’t live here what is on offer and what they are about, and as a bit of a light hearted look into the everyday life of the city.

I have a bit of a guilty secret here, I LOVE magazines, no I don’t think you quite understand; I absolutely LOVE them.

Where do I begin?. I love the texture, the cool glossy high fashion one’s the matt texture of the more hipster one’s, the papery/card goodness of the ‘craft’ type one’s, they are all good in my view.

Whenever I have had to move house, it has always been a wrench having to downsize and declutter my magazine collection (and books, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post).

So for this week, here is my round-up:

1.ES Magazine: Evening Standard magazine -Toffee Paradise

This is the type of magazine you imagine the Made In Chelsea cast would read as they probably know all the people featured within.

This week’s edition is particularly special as it features It Model of the moment Sam Rollinson,who has a strong look and seems refreshingly down to earth.  Not quite ES magazine’s usual style so I’m giving them props for this one.

Though if you enjoy their usual fare of unaffordable buys and outrageously gauche items as I do for the comedy value, you can indulge in their article about Cambodia.

It includes a quote at the end for a nine day trip taking in Song Saa, Phnom Penh and Siem Riep with accommodation, transfers, airfares, guides and entrance fees for a steal at 5,797 GBP!. Which, lets be serious is probably half of what I spend on all my holidays combined over a year!.

There’s also a regular column at the back which is called ‘My London’ and can be very entertaining; like this week as it features a man who goes by the name of ‘Prosper Assouline’ I kid you not.

2. Stylist – Fashion and Beauty with a side of feminisim

My personal favourite (along with Time Out) of the free magazines on offer, it is a great mix of informative articles and fun stuff.

This weeks issue has an interview with the lead in Unbreakable: Kimmy Schmidt everybody’s favourite new show.

It also has an interesting article (in light of the Queen turning 90) in which women in their 90’s talk about their lives. 

3. Shortlist – Stylist for men

Shortlist is the brother magazine of Stylist geared at men. Whereas my partner reads Stylist and can get something out of it, I don’t think Shortlist is quite as translatable to a female audience, some essential funkiness is missing.

This week features quite a long article on differing types of Stag Do’s and (Foodie, Sporty and WTF among them).  

There’s an interview with the very nice and funny Rob Brydon.

I must give them props for their super funny and entertaining regular cloumn ‘middle class war’ which this week features Freddie Flintoff and Austin Stowell.

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4. Time Out – The irreverent heart of the city

Time Out is the king of the free magazines, it’s brash, chatty, funny and knows what’s going on, just like London itself.

Time Out is great because you can usually read it cover to cover, it has listings for all the major things happening in the city and it’s great if you are visiting and/or living here and are looking for new things.

This week had an in-depth feature on coffee in London which is frankly right up my alley, it even had a section on ‘off-piste’ coffee that you can try in the city and will give you instant Instagram clout. 

Their regular column ‘word on the street’ is so funny you will look like a loon laughing aloud on the tube in the mornings!.

5.Sport – For the sporting types

Ok, it has been a very long time since I have been much of a sports fan, so it might not be entirely fair to review this one, but I read it in the interests of research.

The cover features a young gentleman by the name of Marouane Fellaini who I discover is a midfielder at Manchester United (trust me, 15 years ago I could name you half the Premier League).

There’s also an interview with a weighlifter named Zoe Smith, and an article on the Grand National.

All in all, London has some great free magazines to keep you amused amused during your commute, and saves you having to buy ones you have to pay for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destination: Staycation

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I had ten days off for the Easter break. I work in a High School so the students are off for another week. This makes it both harder and easier to be back at work.

Harder because I don’t feel quite in ‘work’ mode yet. Easier because it’s so much quieter, I can actually get things done.

Although I felt like I desperately needed the week off; you know how it goes, the long winter starts getting you down, you don’t see the sun and/or daylight for ages as you’re stuck in an office during the day, you start to feel run down and like you are going to get a major cold or flu.

That’s when you need a break. Continue reading

Cambridge, a bridge on the river Cam.

 

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Punts on the river

Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend the day in Cambridge. It was my first visit and it was delightful. Sometimes all you need is a day away from London to regroup and give you a little ‘inspiration’ or a kick in the pants as I like to call it.

I managed to arrive right on lunch time and set about finding a place to have lunch and get my bearings before any major exploration of the town.

Headed towards the backs (the back of the river) and stumbled upon a lovely whitewashed pub called The Mill; Mr  Liberty noticed a chalkboard proclaiming it the CAMRA (campaign for real ale) pub of the year 2015 which clinched the lunch decision for him.

We headed on inside and grabbed a cosy table while perusing the lunch menu, I ordered the haddock and chips with a glass of pinot grigio (I know, sacrilege but I felt like wine, not beer) and was super happy with my choice as the batter on the fish was so flaky, light and crisp and the chips were perfection!.

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My lovely lunch

Mr Liberty ordered a local pint (Spiffing Wheeze) which he characterised as ‘light and fresh with a slight tartness’ and a pastrami sandwich served with shoestring chips that went down a treat.

After such a huge lunch we were eager to explore and work it off with a long walk. Continue reading

How to Encapsulate a Wardrobe?

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It seems the capsule wardrobe is everywhere at the moment. The truth is I have been contemplating whether or not I should have one.

Confession time, when I got my first job at 15 and 9 months (the legal age for working in Australia) I began buying a capsule wardrobe.

With my lowly after school job wages, I would save for six months and then splash out and buy myself a whole new wardrobe for that season. I seemed to have lost my way during University and the intervening years, but I’m beginning to see the value of it once again.

It’s an alluring concept, and one that really appeals to my sense of budgeting and order. Not to mention that if you work with a seasonal rotating pieces it frees you up to spend more on better quality items that will last longer, and who doesn’t love that?.

The usual advice is to start with neutral base colours; either cold or warm depending on what suits you best and what you like.

Continue reading

Madrid or bust

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I just want to eat all the jamon and all the olives!

So, it was the first day of the four day weekend yesterday, and day one of my ten days off work.

I managed to sleep in, put on a load of washing, take a leisurely walk in the sunshine, clean the house; yet there was something missing.

Maybe it was the fact that apart from a day trip later this week, this holiday was a staycation. I think I was feeling a lack of excitement, adventure, spontaneity.

So I went and booked a trip to Madrid for June!.

Yesterday’s sunshine seemed like a glorious preview and I’m just itching to walk the wide boulevards, stay out late in the warm weather; drink wine all day long and eat all the tapas.

Has anyone got any recommendations on what to see and do in Madrid?.